Welcome to the June 10, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Researchers used Bluetooth ‘fingerprints’ to track devices. Bluetooth Signals Can Be Used to Identify, Track Smartphones
UC San Diego News Center
Ioana Patringenaru
June 8, 2022

Engineers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have demonstrated an exploit that taps Bluetooth beacon signals emitted by smartphones to track individuals. The researchers showed the signals bear a unique fingerprint, which UCSD's Nishant Bhaskar said poses a serious threat "as it is a frequent and constant wireless signal emitted from all our personal mobile devices." The fingerprint stems from manufacturing flaws in hardware that are unique to each device, which generate novel Bluetooth distortions that attackers could use to bypass anti-tracking measures. Experiments validated the feasibility of using the exploit in real-world settings, although the researchers noted it requires attackers to possess significant expertise.

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Purdue’s Jungwoo Leem and Young Kim are part of a team that developed an edible QR code to help consumers detect counterfeit whiskey. Edible QR Code Takes a Shot at Fake Whiskey
Purdue University News
Matthew Oates
June 6, 2022

Biomedical engineers at Purdue University and South Korea's National Institute of Agricultural Sciences have developed a quick response (QR) code to confirm whether a whiskey is authentic or counterfeit. The QR code is imprinted on an edible fluorescent silk protein tag that users can scan with a smartphone to verify the drink's legitimacy. Purdue's Young Kim said scientists strengthen silk proteins' durability with alcohol so "the shape of the tag can be maintained for a long time." Kim and Purdue's Jungwoo Leem said specialized silkworms produce fluorescent silk cocoons that are processed into a biopolymer used to form data-encoding patterns. The researchers placed tags in various whiskey brands over a 10-month period, and found they were able to activate the tags and codes with a smartphone application.

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The cable-driven GTGraffiti robot paints a layered composition. Introducing the Robot That Paints Like a Human
Georgia Tech Research
June 7, 2022

Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) researchers have built GTGraffiti, a painting robot that emulates human movement recorded through motion capture by spray-painting graffiti artwork. The researchers captured the movements of two human artists as they spray-painted graffiti, then incorporated speed, acceleration, and size data into the cable-driven robot's design. The team converted the artists' composition into electrical signals to form an archive of digital characters that the robot can be programmed to produce in any size, perspective, and combination. Georgia Tech's Gerry Chen said, "We hope that our research can help artists compose artwork that, executed by a superhuman robot, communicates messages more powerfully than any piece they could have physically painted themselves."

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Connected Vehicle, Infrastructure Data Driving Roadway Safety
Government Computer News
Shourjya Mookerjee
June 8, 2022

Later this year, the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will release open-source software that captures data from infrastructure-based sensors and communicates with automated vehicles, to help city planners enhance safety at intersections. The infrastructure perception and control (IPC) computational engine amasses real-time roadway data from light detection and ranging (LiDAR), radar, and camera sensors, which helps researchers construct digitized models of intersection traffic. NREL officials said the combination of infrastructure and vehicle sensor readings will help the researcher create a digital twin of the city to help detect potential safety and cybersecurity flaws. NREL has partnered with Colorado Springs, CO, to install a prototype IPC system at one of the city’s intersections.

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The Parallel reality display can customize what is seen on-screen, depending on the angle from which it is viewed. Everyone Sees Something Different on Delta's Face Recognition Airport Display
Andrew Liszewski
June 9, 2022

Delta Air Lines will soon debut face recognition displays from the company Misapplied Sciences at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, each of which is designed to tailor the information it displays to whomever is staring at it. The Parallel Reality display customizes its presentation based on the angle from which people view it. Misapplied Sciences' website says the technology combines software-controlled pixels that can "simultaneously project up to millions of light rays of different colors and brightness" beamed in specific directions, with sufficient processing power to track and target up to 100 viewers concurrently. This means Delta passengers will see only the details for their specific flight onscreen, even when multiple travelers crowd around the display.

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Keeping Web-Browsing Data Safe From Hackers
MIT News
Adam Zewe
June 9, 2022

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers analyzed a website-fingerprinting attack in order to develop new defenses. Previous research showed the machine learning-assisted cyberattack tallies how many times the computer accesses memory as it loads a website, then identifies the site. The researchers learned the attack's underlying mechanisms were misidentified, and stripping all memory accesses made the exploit just as effective, if not more so. The researchers formulated two countermeasures: a browser extension that generates frequent interrupts to complicating the attacker's ability to decode signals and reduce attack accuracy from 96% to 62%, and altering the timer to return values that are near but not actual time, which slashes the attack’s accuracy to 1%.

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The “e-nose” metal-organic framework-based sensor array. 'E-Nose' Sniffs Out Volatile Organic Compounds
American Chemical Society
June 8, 2022

Researchers from Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the University of Pittsburgh developed an “electric nose” (e-nose) that can detect mixtures of specific volatile organic compounds through porous metal-organic framework (MOF) films. The researchers deployed six xylene isomer-adsorptive MOF films in gravimetric sensors, which had different sensitivities to o-xylene, m-xylene, and p-xylene. They used a machine learning algorithm to analyze the sensor array data, and ascertained mixture composition with 86% accuracy for a 10-ppm mixture and 96% accuracy for a 100-ppm mixture. The researchers said the e-nose can be used to discriminate between the three forms of xylene in environmental monitoring and diagnostic health testing.

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Considering Trauma in Tech Design Could Benefit All Users
Cornell Chronicle
Tom Fleischman
June 8, 2022

A team of researchers from Cornell University and the University of Michigan explored how trauma-informed computing could make technology safer for all users. The researchers describe the approach as "an ongoing commitment to improving the design, development, deployment, and support of digital technologies by explicitly acknowledging trauma and its impact, recognizing that digital technologies can both cause and exacerbate trauma, and actively seeking out ways to avoid technology-related trauma and retraumatization." The result of their research is a framework that adapts the principles of safety, trust, collaboration, peer support, enablement, and intersectionality from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations for computer design, development, deployment, and assessment.

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A flock of birds scatters above a field. Robotic Peregrine Falcon Can Scare Birds Away from Crop Fields
New Scientist
Carissa Wong
June 6, 2022

Researchers in the Netherlands developed a flying robot inspired by a male peregrine falcon that can scare flocks of birds from crop fields. The researchers flew the Robotfalcon or a standard drone in a straight line, at a constant altitude, above flocks of birds that had landed in agricultural fields; the Robotfalcon cleared all the targeted birds from the fields within five minutes, while the drone repelled 80% of the birds in the same period. Targeted birds also were more likely to return to the fields in tests with the drone, compared with the Robotfalcon which, in addition to appearing like a peregrine falcon, played recordings of bird distress calls.

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Various methods for unlocking a Tesla vehicle. Tesla Hack Gives Thieves Their Own Personal Key
Ars Technica
Dan Goodin
June 8, 2022

Austrian security researcher Martin Herfurt has demonstrated that electric vehicle company Tesla's updated near-field communication key card can be hacked. The update allows the car to automatically start within 130 seconds of being unlocked, and enables new keys to be accepted without authentication or indication from the in-vehicle display. Although the Tesla app disallows keys to be enrolled unless connected to the owner's account, Herfurt found the car shares messages with any nearby Bluetooth Low Energy device. He crafted an app that speaks the same language the Tesla app uses to communicate with Tesla vehicles. A malicious proof-of-concept version allows thieves to secretly enroll their own keys during the 130-second interval, then exchange VCSec messages that enroll the key.

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The terahertz imager microchip. Imager Microchip Helps Devices Bring Hidden Objects to Light
University of Texas at Dallas
June 6, 2022

A terahertz imager microchip developed by researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas and Oklahoma State University allows devices to detect objects and create images of them through fog, smoke, dust, snow, and other vision-impaired environments. The microchip emits signals in the terahertz range that can penetrate obstacles like smoke and fog; they bounce off objects hidden by the smoke or fog, and return to the microchip where they are used to create an image of the hidden object or objects. Said University of Texas' Kenneth O, "This imaging technology consumes more than 100 times less power than the phased arrays currently being investigated for the same imaging applications."

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Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook's 2018 Algorithm Change Boosted GOP Groups
NBC News
Brandy Zadrozny
June 8, 2022

Scientists at Ohio’s Miami and Wright State universities found conservative political groups disproportionately benefited from a change in Facebook's News Feed recommendation algorithm. The researchers used Facebook parent Meta's CrowdTangle social media analysis tool to collect posts from the pages of nearly every county party in the U.S. Posts from local Democratic and Republican party pages generally had the same engagement rate until 2018, but by July 2019, posts from local GOP parties were being shared more than three times as frequently as local Democratic posts. The News Feed overhaul was aimed at predicting meaningful social interactions and deprioritizing public and news content by boosting content using reactions, comments, and shares; outside researchers and internal Facebook documents learned this polarized the Facebook community, rewarding users who shared the most misinformed content.

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A computer calculating 100 trillion digits of pi, along with a pie for the celebration of this new benchmark. Google Developers Set Another Record for Calculating Digits of Pi: 100 Trillion
Alan Boyle
June 8, 2022

Software developer Emma Haruka Iwao and colleagues at Google Cloud achieved a new record by calculating pi—the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter—to 100 trillion digits. The Google Cloud Compute Engine calculated that number in 157 days, thanks to upgrades and boosts in throughput. The operation involved processing approximately 82,000 terabytes of data using the y-cruncher pi-calculating program. "By combining all the new features that were introduced in the last three years, I thought we would be able to break a record again, and not just by a few digits, but by a good margin," Iwao explained.

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Probabilistic and Causal Inference: The Works of Judea Pearl
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